Postcards from Madrid 2014

May 22, 2014

Saint Louis University School of Law sponsors the Summer Law Program in Madrid, offering six weeks of enriching, rewarding comparative and international law education in one of the most exciting, historical and culturally rich cities in the world. In the summer of 2014, 13 students (9 from SLU LAW; 4 from other U.S. law schools) embarked on educational and extracurricular adventures with SLU LAW Professors Steve Thaman and Carol Needham, as well as Professors Lorena Bachmaier Winter, Ignacio Borrajo Iniesta and Javier Martinez-Torron from Complutense University of Madrid.

Professor Needham and Professor Thaman provided dispatches from Madrid throughout the summer, giving everyone back stateside a glimpse into life in and around the Spanish capital. For more information on the Summer Semester in Madrid, visit the Center for International and Comparative Law website


Getting Acclimated
Professor Carol Needham


Saturday, May 17
Coming over on Iberia Airlines, there was a little bit of Spain in the gate agent’s announcements (Spanish first, then English), the meals (good olives with the side salad at dinner, a cheese course with breakfast) and the in-flight entertainment (plenty of Spanish, French and Italian movies featuring EU actors, along with familiar U.S. movies). It was worth the violation of anti-jetlag protocol to watch the Martin Sheen movie, “The Way,” which includes some spectacular scenery and vivid details of daily life (look for the local women observing life from their balcony and the incidental characters during the al fresco meal scenes) as the central character walks the medieval pilgrimage path across the north of Spain towards Santiago de Compostela. I walked part of that journey years ago and friends from St. Louis are hiking the final few days of the pilgrimage this week. Somehow, seeing this movie on the way over was a timely reminder to take discomforts in stride and to savor the journey of the next few weeks in Spain.

Sunday, May 18
The orientation was our first chance to get together with all the students in this summer’s program. It’s a good mix of experienced travelers (who’ve spent significant time in Iran, Ecuador, Germany, England and other countries) and those who are on their first trip outside the U.S. Some are living in apartments and some with host families. One of the advantages of having a host family was demonstrated when a student quickly obtained both a 10-trip metro card and a pre-paid mobile phone on the first day with the guidance, and a bit of translating, provided by the older brother in their host family. By comparison, a person living in an apartment (who shall remain nameless) spent an inordinate amount of time figuring out that the sim card they’d purchased from another vendor wouldn’t work in the mobile phone a friend had lent them because the phone was locked to Moviestar, one of the cellphone vendors here. All was well once they obtained a sim card from the right vendor. And, no one set up their phone service more quickly than the student who had arranged to have Verizon unlock her phone before she left the U.S.

Some of us spent a rather longer time than necessary walking to campus from the Guzman el Bueno metro stop (having missed the first turn). But, having a chance to explore the area wasn’t such a bad thing. The campus was pretty quiet, since the students in other programs arrive on Monday. 

One of the profs, Lorena Bachmaier Winter, is consulting in Kiev. Hearing that reminded me that SLU LAW’s Monica Eppinger left to spend her summer in Ukraine right after spring semester ended. What a great opportunity we have to hear some of the behind the scenes details about one of the major news stories of the day from experts with first-hand experience. The profs teaching in the Madrid summer program whom I have met have excellent expertise and knowledge along with a down-to-earth quality that isn’t always found in people this accomplished.

Almost everyone came along on Prof. Steve Thaman’s tour of a few of his favorite places in Madrid. I’m sure he is blogging about it [Editor’s note: he did! See below], so I’ll just add that we learned the value of finding a table in the shade at Casa Labra and were amazed at how large the tapas servings were at Café Central. The area around the Sol metro was awash in soccer fans wearing the colors of the teams in the championships. Two teams from Madrid are powerhouses this year. Atletico Madrid (whose red and white jersey somewhat curiously is emblazoned with the wording, ‘Azerbaijan Land of Fire’ in an effort to promote tourism in that country) won the league in its game on Saturday. Students who watched the match with some fans of Atletico Madrid described for the rest of us the emotional intensity the fans displayed as they cheered on their team.


Hitting My Favorite Spots and a Field Trip to the Gender Violence Courts
Professor Steve Thaman


On Sunday, May 18, an orientation was held at the SLU-Madrid campus for the 13 summer law students. The students were told about the services at the Madrid campus and were shown around the three buildings that make up the campus. Professors Needham, Martinez-Torron and I also gave a little introductory talk about their classes.

After the orientation, I took 12 of the students and Carol Needham for an introductory bar hop, which began at Casa Labra, near Puerta del Sol, where, in 1879, the Socialist Workers Party of Spain was clandestinely founded. It is known for its hunks of grilled cod and its cod croquettes, which go well with a glass of white Valdepeñas wine or a short beer (una caña).

We then walked to Calle Echegaray to Venencia, a venerable sherry bar, former hangout of Hemingway, and, during Franco´s time, of anti-Franco forces. Photography is prohibited, as is tipping.  We also found out, that groups greater than 12 (we were 14) are also outlawed. We were asked to leave!

We made our way to my favorite fried fish (Málaga style) restaurant, La Trucha, next to the Teatro Español. To my chagrin it was closed, and a woman who lived next door said it closed in the two summers ago. Apparently there were labor issues, the owner wasn't paying the waitstaff (my friends), demonstrations ensued, and it closed.

Puerta del Sol has banners for the two Madrid soccer teams, Atletico, which won the Spanish Liga championship on Saturday, causing an uproar in the city, and Real Madrid, the New York Yankees of Spanish soccer. The two Madrid teams will play for the European Championship on May 24 in Lisbon, I believe the first time that two teams from the same city will do so.

We then went to my favorite jazz club, Café Central, on Plaza Angel, and we all had a drink. About five of us stayed for the music, the Cuban Jazz Project, and heard one set before retiring to prepare for the first day of classes.

We had our first day of classes on Monday. On Tuesday, I took eight of the students and Professor Needham to the Gender Violence Courts in the north of Madrid. We watched three so-called “speedy trials” where the complaining witness – the woman – testifies (or refuses to do so based on a privilege which extends to sentimental relationships, not only to those who are married). Thereafter, the man – the defendant – testifies. This all happens one day after the incident. The prosecutor, judge and the lawyers for victim and defendant hear the statements, and then the prosecutor, based on the police report and the statements, decides whether to charge and prints up the accusatory pleading in court.

Natividad testified her boyfriend pushed her and threatened her with a knife. The boyfriend said he wasn´t her boyfriend, and that Natividad was actually a prostitute, and ran out of the room naked, after he had paid 80 euros, and claimed she was assaulted. The second couple refused to testify, but, since each had claimed the other used violence against them, both of them were charged and both were victims! Something that could not happen in the U.S. The third couple similarly refused to testify.

The students were amazed to see safety nets between the floors to catch anyone who might jump out of desperation or be pushed (pictured, left, from 2010).

So much for the first three days of our 13th year in Madrid.


May 30th Dispatch
Professor Steve Thaman


A couple of students and I visited the Provincial Court of Madrid, and we saw the selection of the jury in a murder case. This was interesting, because the court used a sequestered approach with the parties. That is, prosecutor, private prosecutor (for the victim), civil lawyer for the victim, and defense lawyer, asking question of each prospective juror one at a time. This method used to be done in death penalty cases in California when I was a public defender there, but is seldom used in the U.S.

I was in Krakow, Poland the end of last week and over the weekend. Some students visited Segovia, Spain. This week (Thursday), all the professors had a lunch together (except for Lorena Bachmaier) at Sal Gorda, near SLU-Madrid, with its excellent fried artichokes, mushrooms sauteed in sherry, octopus Galician style, and carpaccio of salmon and sole, among other entrees, finished off with an apple tart. My wife and I will go to hear Javier Colina's band at Cafe Central, and I will let the students and Carol Needham know, in case they want to go.


Something Spanish Happened on the Way to the Courthouse
Professor Steve Thaman


The week in Madrid got interesting around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, June 2, when King Juan Carlos announced he was abdicating the throne, to be assumed by his son Felipe. So we should have a coronation here in the next two weeks. We had the marriage of Prince Felipe to Letizia, a popular television journalist during the program in 2004, just two months after the Madrid train bombings, but the “royals” have been quiet since then.

Monday evening my wife, Natalia, and I met three students at the Reina Sophia Museum for a chamber music concert, performed by the Trio Kandinsky and singer Elena Vasilieva, performing Shostakovich and two modern Spanish pieces. The composers of the Spanish pieces were present as well. We then went to the fabulous family restaurant La Sanabresa on Love-of-God Street (Calle Amor de Dios).  

Speaking of the Madrid train bombings, eight students, Carol Needham and I met on Calle Genova to attend a drug trafficking trial at the Audiencia Nacional, the court specializing in organized crime, terrorism, sophisticated economic crimes, money laundering, etc. I had planned this over the last two weeks and exchanged e-mails with the secretary who had planned our visit two years ago.

But a Spanish thing happened. The National Court was no longer at the location it had been since its inception in the late 1970s, and no one had bothered to tell me of this fact. It is being renovated, and its chambers are spread all over Madrid. One small branch was within walking distance, but they just had a tiny court handling extraditions. The chamber with the felony trials was only reachable by commuter train, and it would have taken us an hour to get there.

So we took some cheerful group pictures in front of Antonio Gades’ Restaurant, near the Supreme Court. Gades was a famous Flamenco dancer and choreographer. Also, you can see the construction site of the National Court with our cheerful faces in front of it.

On Wednesday we met several students for boiled shrimp, crab, prawns, clams, octopus and barnacles at Ribero do Miño. For several students, they ate ocean floor denizens they had never seen before.

Note the massive offerings.

Many students were off to Barcelona this week, at least one to Munich, but several stayed in town.

This is a great group of students.


Visitors and History
Professor Steve Thaman


The last week was, to say the least, eventful in Madrid.  The Director of the Spain Program and the Center for International and Comparative Law, Bill Johnson, arrived on Sunday, June 15,  to coincide with the American Bar Association site visit, which was conducted by Prof. Steven Willborn from the University of Nebraska. 

On Tuesday, June 17, the site visit began with Prof. Willborn visiting classes and talking to students and the teachers. This continued on Wednesday, June 18.

On Tuesday evening, the professors invited the students to a dinner at El Carmen Restaurant, a family restaurant in Chamberi where I have been going since 1996. We had hors d'oeuvres of asparagus, eggplant, mushrooms, calamari and croquettes, and a choice of meat or fish for a main course, and an ample flow of wine and sangria. We were joined by Julio Lasarte, the brilliant Spanish teacher and Bill Johnson as well. 

On Wednesday, June 18, the students, Prof. Willborn, Profs. Johnson and Needham and family and I visited the Constitutional Court and Prof. Ignacio Borrajo and Prof. Aguilera from the Autonoma University gave us a guided tour of the court. Tom Timmerman took some pictures, as I forgot my camera. Then two abdications took place. Profs. Willborn, Johnson, Needham, my wife, Natalya, and I had some tortilla and peppers on the terraces at Plaza Olavide after the conclusion of the site visit, and at 9 p.m. all of us, save Prof. Willborn, watched the Spanish football team abdicate its crown as champion of the world, which it won in South Africa in 2010.  They were clobbered by Chile 2-0, and Madrid went into shock (they had lost last Thursday against Holland 5-1). Then at midnight, King Juan Carlos handed the throne over to his son Felipe VI.

Thursday morning the new king and his former journalist queen, Letizia, were officially pronounced heads of state in the parliament and then a caravan took them down Gran Via to the palace. The students are so good this year, I think none of them played hookie to try to see this site. My wife did get her way through the police cordons to see it, however.

Most of the students traveled over the weekend, but Henry Powell, did join us for a Sunday afternoon “arroz abanda” at the Costa Blanca Restaurant.


Final Days 
Professor Steve Thaman


After the coronation and the Spain football fiasco we settled in to the final week of class which culminated in finals. On Tuesday, June 24, we took a class picture on the balcony of one of the SLU-Madrid buildings, in SLU-Madrid T-shirts, included are Professors Thaman, Needham and Julio Lasarte our brilliant Spanish language teacher. 

Exams were held on a free-scheduling basis on June 26, 27 and 28 and the students left Madrid on June 29.

Those taking International Criminal Law with me then flew to Amsterdam and took the train to The Hague and settled into the Hotel Sebel Sunday night, before our three days in the international criminal courts beginning on Monday.

Sunday night was big in The Hague, because the Dutch soccer team won a thrilling game against Mexico.  After trailing 1-0 into the last minutes of play, the Dutch scored an excellent goal to tie the game, and then won on a penalty kick after a questionable call. The Dutch went crazy. 

At 9:30 a.m. on Monday, June 30, we visited the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Alex Demirdjian, a Canadian, who has been prosecuting cases at the ICTY over the last 10 years or so, talked to us first about his job, and the problems involved in prosecuting in the court.  We then had a very entertaining talk by two ICTY Defense Counsel, Gregor Guy-Smith and Colleen Rohan, both originally from the San Francisco Bay area, who have also been doing defense work at the ICTY for over 10 years each. While praising the ICTY and the ICC as vehicles to attempt to deal with the gravest of international crimes, they were highly critical of the shortcuts made in due process, especially when viewed from an American perspective, which have been made in the international courts. 

In the afternoon we visited the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, which was created to try the perpetrators of a car bombing that killed the former Lebanese prime minister and 20 others. We had talks by members of the court team (not a judge), a prosecutor, a Canadian and a French member of the defense team. They talked about the court and the case, which is built on circumstantial evidence consisting nearly entirely on the tracking of cell phone activity allegedly from the cell phones of the suspects on the day of the murder.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) celebrated the anniversary of the signing of the Rome Treaty setting up the court on Tuesday, July 1, so it was closed. The ICTY had no hearings, so the students had a day off to see the Mauritshuis Museum, which recently re-opened with its masterpieces from Rembrandt and Vermeer (Girl with the Pearl Earring) among others. Some students went to Amsterdam as well.

On Tuesday, July 2, we met at 9:45 a.m. for a tour of the ICC, the permanent international court. A member of the prosecutor's office gave us an introduction into the structure of the prosecutor's office and talked about many of the cases. This we heard with other students from another university.

We visited the court room (no hearing today, as they had been put off for two weeks), and then just the SLU students met for an informal talk with Judge Silvia Steiner, one of the first judges on the ICC, who hails from Brazil. She told us of her time on the Pretrial Chamber as it decided to issue the arrest warrant for Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, the first case tried by the court, and then about her acting as presiding judge in the Bemba case which is just finishing up. She answered questions by the students and talked about many of the challenges the court and the judges faced. 

We returned to the Hotel Sebel and had a farewell beer in Prins Hendrick Square near the hotel. See pictures, including student Cade Bauer-Showers celebrating the end of the course at the little fairground in the square.


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